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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Rashi Vats's 5pm anchor journey is a Texas story of hard work and love

Fox 26 KRIV 5pm anchor Rashi Vats has worked her way up through Texas TV markets to become the first Indian-American primetime, weekday Houston news anchor

Rashi Vats

New FOX 26 KRIV 5pm anchor Rashi Vats says it comes as no surprise from those who knew her growing up, that she ended up in a very public profession.

"Since I was a little twerp, I’ve always loved being in front of the camera, acting or dancing," Vats told  "They are thrilled when they see me on their screen!"

Those friends and family who knew Vats way back when, will be happy that the native Houstonian is now playing a bigger role on channel 26.  

A few weeks ago, KRIV launched a “The NewsEdge Early Edition,” the station's first foray into the 6pm newscast timeslot.  That meant that newly named 6pm anchor Kaitlin Monte moved to the new show, leaving the 5pm slot open.  Seven year FOX 26 veteran, Vats, was moved from the morning news shift to become the first Indian-American anchor in a weeknight, primetime Houston newscast that I am aware of.

"It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly," Vats added.  "I see the outpouring of support I’ve received from everyone including the huge Indian community. Many people know my family better than they know me, since they have called Houston home for four decades! They get calls from their friends all excited that they saw me on TV! Shout out to the aunties and uncles!"

“Rashi’s reporting and anchoring have always reflected how much she cares about the people here, since she is one of them," KRIV Vice President and News Director, Susan Schiller, said in a statement about Vats's promotion. "We know she’ll bring her trademark high energy to evenings.”

A diverse Houston television audience

Ruchi Mukherjee, International TV Correspondent and Editor/Host of LCAHouston International Society News Magazine, says while she has experienced challenges to make an impact as an international journalist herself, the Houston community at large is very supportive and diverse.

"It’s a proud moment for the entire Indian American community who absolutely adore [Vats]," Mukherjee told  "It’s feels great to see a fellow Indian American journalist on prime time. Rashi is also very special to the LCAHouston family as she was our honoree for the International Mother’s Day Soirée in 2018 representing her ethnicity, culture and journalistic values.” 

According to Pew Research data from 2015, Houston ranked as the eight U.S. metropolitan area among those with substantial Indian populations with 125,000 people. Rice University's Kinder Institute for Urban Research reports Indian-Americans represent 37% of the Asian-American population in Fort Bend County according to 2014 estimates. 

As a result, in the early part of the 2010s decade, Houston television news departments focused on hiring Indian journalists.  Those South Asian talent still on the air in Houston, including Vats, are KHOU 11 4pm afternoon anchor Rekha Muddaraj and abc13 KTRK reporter Pooja Lodhia.

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TCU to London

While her family hails from India, Vats was the first in her family to be born in the United States.  Growing up in Houston, her career has largely been Texas based except for time interning with the CBS News London Bureau and a fellowship with CBS Evening News in New York.

"It was life changing," Vats told me.  "I loved London and being on my own. I saw what it took to get to the top, and it motivated me to move forward."

The Texas Christian University graduate started off as a biology and chemistry major with plans to eventually become a doctor. Then the Schieffer School of Journalism came calling.  Only problem, she didn't know how to 'break the news' of her news career studies to her family back in Houston.

"My family got over the shock and on board with my career path, and now they are big fans," Vats admitted. "Whew! Follow your heart folks!"

A love for TV news and the sports guy

Gotera and Vats during their KXII time

Vats's first job was KXII Sherman, TX which covers the Texoma region.  It was there in 2008, that she met her earliest fan, future husband, and eventual KHOU 11 sports reporter, Daniel Gotera.

"I'll actually never forget the first time I saw her on television," Gotera told  "I was in the sports office at our first station, KXII, in Sherman and I remember turning to my sports director and asking 'Who is that?' He laughed because he could tell I was definitely taken back by her.  Since that moment, she has done nothing but surprise me each day."

Gotera had been a news reporter at the station for two years, but was waiting for a sports position to become available.  Once one did, Gotera went to sports never looking back, and Vats took his reporter position. 

After a tragic bus accident, fate assigned Gotera as Vats's photographer for around the clock coverage.  The future couple worked together on that story for 32 hours straight. 

"He taught me the real-life fundamentals of reporting in the field," Vats said.  "Those lessons have helped shape me into who I am today, and I am forever grateful for my #1 fan."

Gotera said from that experience, he could tell Vats was going to rise to TV stardom pretty quickly. 

"Rashi is the type of person that you want to know," he said.  "She's made me a better person and reporter. She's kind, smart, beautiful both inside and out...but most importantly, she's real. What you see on TV, is what you get in real life. The anchor desk was made for her and I can't wait to see what she does with this new opportunity that she has so rightfully earned." 

Love was in the air for the young journalists, but long distance was about to change the channel on their relationship as Gotera jumped from Sherman to KHOU 11 Houston. He grew up in Katy, Texas' Cinco Ranch.

"After working there a year, he made the unprecedented (and well deserved) jump to Houston," Vats said.  "I wanted to stay as close as I could and work my way back home!" 

"Her road hasn't been easy," Gotera admitted. "In a world where many young TV reporters think they can just show up in a big market and succeed, she went through the 'traditional' small market route, working her way to her current position."

Deep in the Heart of Texas TV news

That Texas TV career journey took Vats from KXII to reporting for KRIS and KZTV in Corpus Christi.

Then it was a move closer to home and Gotera to be a weekend anchor and reporter at KBTX Bryan-College Station for two years. 

In 2013, Vats made it back home to Houston to reunite, with her then fiancé, as a new reporter for FOX 26 KRIV.  

"We've been through a lot," Gotera said. "Four years of a long distance relationship wasn't easy, but it made finally being together again in the same market all the more exciting. To use a sports analogy...I outkicked my coverage, there is no doubt about that."

If you have been a regular reader of my blog, then you have followed the couple's journey of having son Rian (2017) and daughter Liana (2020).

"She just keeps getting better and better," Gotera told me.  "Adversity breeds confidence and despite the ups and downs she has faced, she's been able to maintain who she is while becoming a household name in her hometown. I couldn't be more proud of her not only as a husband but as a fellow reporter in this rapidly changing industry. Yes, I'm biased, but I think she's one of a kind in more ways than one."

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